Sunday, November 25, 2007

I'm Sorry

Of course we weren’t arguing. Mark and I never argue. We discuss. (Sometimes heatedly.) And this discussion happened to be about whether or not I had misplaced the remote control. Can you believe that? Me. Mrs. Responsibility. I always put the remote back on the coffee table as soon as I’ve used it.

“Honey, you’re the last one who had it. I know you are, because HGTV is on. You’re the only one who watches that.”

“No I’m . . . well, okay, maybe I am. But I didn’t lose the remote!”

The entire family had been searching for that dad-blamed remote for twenty minutes. We had taken all the pillows off the sofa. We had moved the sofa. We had looked on top of, underneath, inside of, beside every possible location. The remote was gone. And the football game had already started.

We finally gave up the search. Why doesn’t anyone ever use the manual controls anymore, anyway? Irritated, Mark settled into his recliner, and I decided to vent some of my frustration pounding away at this keyboard. As I sat down at my trusty computer and moved some papers around, what do you think I found?

I quickly covered the remote with some papers, and tried to figure a way out of this mess. Maybe I could sneak it in somehow. I know! I’ll fix him a glass of tea, and as I hand it to him, I will just happen to see the remote under his recliner! But I knew it was no use. I’d been caught. Now, I needed to ’fess up.

Don’t you just hate to admit when you are wrong? I know I do. Sometimes, saying “I’m sorry” can be almost impossible! Our pride tries to convince us that no matter how wrong we have been, we were justified in our behavior. We tell ourselves that the other person should apologize to us. We leave the burden for making things right on the other guy’s doorstep.

But when we refuse to make right something that is wrong, we are foolish. And our foolish pride will not bring us the peaceful, happy lives we all desire! We can only be at peace if we live good, upright lives. One way to be good and upright is to make things right, or make amends.

We need to focus more on doing right than on being right. And it is always right to try to live peacefully with others. If someone has hurt our feelings, chances are pretty good that we have hurt them as well. If we are involved in a petty dispute that is causing stress and anger in our lives, the other person probably feels that stress and anger, too. We need to swallow our pride and make the decision to spread goodwill, keep the peace, and when necessary, admit we are wrong.

So, I took a deep breath, squared my shoulders, picked up the remote, and marched bravely into the living room. Mark’s eyes lit with humor and just a touch of that “I knew it!” expression.

But before he could speak, I told him, “This was next to my computer. I was wrong. I’m sorry!” He placed the remote control on the side table and pulled me into his lap. Well, alrightey then. Saying “I’m sorry” might not be such a bad thing after all!

Proverbs 14:9 “Fools mock at making amends for sin, but goodwill is found among the upright.”

Monday, November 19, 2007

The Family Circle

Thanksgiving at Memaw’s house was always special. With enough food to feed the entire state of Texas, enough aunts, uncles and cousins to form our own state, and enough love to last a year, we never went away feeling hungry.

Nobody ever ate at the dining room table. There wasn’t enough room! The table was filled to overflowing with turkey, ham, fried chicken, mashed potatoes, green beans, black-eyed peas, casseroles, cornbread, banana bread and more!

The wide deep-freeze served as a dessert table, with every mouth-watering delicacy imaginable. Each dish was made by the skillful, loving hands of my East Texas relatives. Wrinkled aluminum foil was bent back and replaced time and again, as we nibbled cakes, pies and cookies throughout the day.

Every year was the same. We all gathered around the big table and held hands. Usually the “circle” spilled into the kitchen and living room. My dad would say a prayer, thanking God for His bountiful blessings, and then we’d dig in!

There were always a few seconds of “You go first!”

“No, you go on ahead.”

Until finally Uncle Maurice would growl, “Move out of my way! I’ll go first!”

We would all laugh and file in line. The last person in line never had to worry, either. There was more than enough of everything to feed our crew for days!

Memaw would sit in queenly quest as children and grandchildren scrambled to serve her. She didn’t say much, but the twinkle in her eye said it all. This was the one day of the year when all her children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren were together under one roof. She treasured every moment, and we treasured her.

Laughter rang from every corner of the old farmhouse – the kitchen, the bedrooms, the porch – and Memaw just listened and smiled. When the weather permitted, many of us “young ‘uns” would take our Chinette plates onto the wooden porch steps, or sit with our legs dangling from one tailgate or another. The men would sit around and talk about the weather, or about hunting. The women would sit and talk about the men.

In January of 1994, Memaw went to be with our Lord. Uncle Maurice followed just four months later. Thanksgiving is different now. And yet, surprisingly the same.

Mark, the kids and I will join my brother Shelby and sister-in-law, Debbie, along with their three children. Mom will fix her famous dressing – the dressing for which there is no recipe. “Just a little of this, and a little of that . . . “ Dad will probably say the prayer, just like always. Countertops and tabletops will be full of more food than we will be able to consume in many meals.

After the meal, the kids will run around and whoop and holler, just like always. Mark, Dad and Shelby will sit around and talk about hunting. Mom, Debbie and I will sit around and talk about kids and husbands.

Our celebration is smaller now, but there is every bit as much love. I know if we listen closely enough, we will hear Uncle Maurice growl. And I know, somehow, that Memaw will be smiling with that twinkle in her eye as she, PaPa, and all our other loved ones who have gone on to glory look down on each of us who are left behind, all together under the same heaven.

Psalm 68:6 “God sets the lonely in families.”

Friday, November 16, 2007

Hot Lips!

It took all the self control I could muster, and then some, not to tell what I knew about Joe. It was such a funny story – hilarious, really! But I knew Joe probably didn’t see it that way. But he would never know. After all, what’s the harm in a little innocent gossip? My lips were just burning to share . . . as a matter of fact, I had to excuse myself from our table at Casa Ole just to keep from bursting into laughter! But, in spite of the fact that I missed my chance to be the life of the party, I’m glad I kept my mouth shut. I’ve been the victim of gossip. In a split-second decision, I decided not to be the perpetrator of the very crime that has brought me pain and embarrassment.

Let's be honest. Is there anyone reading this who has perfect control over his/her speech? Sometimes, those unkind words slip out before we even realize what has happened. But when we gossip and slander, we hurt those we talk about, and we hurt ourselves as well! For when we speak negatively about others, we send the message that we are not trustworthy. We announce to others that we can’t keep a secret, that we’re not loyal, that we have loose lips and unkind hearts. And though people may listen wholeheartedly to our unkind, unnecessary words, those same people will make mental notes to keep their distance from us.
But controlling our speech is difficult. Impossible, really. So how in the world are we supposed to stop ourselves? Here are some practical tips for controlling our “hot lips”:

1. When we start to say something negative about someone, we can force ourselves to say something positive instead! (And I don't mean sarcasm, either.)

2. We can change the subject. My mother once told me that classy people talk about things, not people. Try discussing sports, music, or under-water basket-weaving!

3. Finally, we can always choose to walk away from any conversation that is unkind, gossipy, slanderous . . . We each have a free will, and we don’t have to participate in negative, hurtful speech.

Others may think we’re odd when we choose not to join in with the latest juicy morsels of gossip. But those same people will respect us and trust us. And in the long run, the good names we will earn for ourselves will be much more rewarding than any brief moment of popularity gained by delivering gossip and slander.

So, I returned to the table determined not to spill the beans. Joe was still the topic of conversation, so I interjected, “You know, Joe makes the best home-made salsa I have ever tasted. Speaking of salsa, I think I’d like some more chips. Waitress!”

Proverbs 11:12 - 13 "A man who lacks judgment derides his neighbor, but a man of understanding holds his tongue. A gossip betrays a confidence, but a trustworthy man keeps a secret."

Friday, November 9, 2007

American Idol

Okay. It’s time for true confessions, here. I (blush . . .) am an American Idol wanna-be! More than once, (okay, more than twice, even . . .) I have been caught by my husband or my kids, hairbrush in hand, belting out the Star-Spangled Banner, imagining crowds of out-of-control fans holding up posters with my name on them. In my musings, even Simon Cowell is awed by my unmatched talent. But then, the amused and somewhat frightened expressions on the faces of my real-life audience always bring me back to earth. Right here, in front of my computer. Typing these words to you.

American Idol is one of the biggest pop-culture shows of our time. One of the stars created through that show is the singer, Clay Aiken. He had tremendous talent, but then, so did everyone else who made it to the finals of that show. Clay was cute, but gangly, and a little nerdy. (Sorry, Clay! But you were.) While we all loved this nerdy guy, he needed some work. And one of his harshest critics during the show was - you guessed it – Simon.

While many of the contestants left the stage in anger or tears after Simon's harsh words, Clay seemed to lean forward, eagerly drinking in every mean, nasty word. And the next week, while many contestants continued making the same mistakes, Clay would have fixed whatever problem Simon had addressed. Clay used Simon's criticism to his advantage. He was wise. He made it to the top two in that show, and is now a huge pop star!

One of the main differences between a wise person and a foolish person is his/her ability to accept instruction and correction. None of us is perfect - not a single one of us. We all have times when we need to be rebuked, or corrected. The foolish person will take correction, scoff at it, and hate the one who delivered it. The wise person, on the other hand, will take the correction, examine it, apply it to his/her life, and will appreciate the one who delivered it. Even if the rebuke was given harshly, and was intended to bring hurt, the wise man will use it to his advantage, and will grow to be a better person because of it.

So maybe, the next time my real-life audience laughs at my passionate attempt at musical genius, I should ask them for an honest appraisal of my talent. After all, it is important to give the fans what they want. I may just learn something that will help me on my journey to fame!

Proverbs 9:7 – 9 “Whoever corrects a mocker invites insult; whoever rebukes a wicked man incurs abuse. Do not rebuke a mocker or he will hate you; rebuke a wise man and he will love you. Instruct a wise man and he will be wiser still; teach a righteous man and he will add to his learning.”

Friday, November 2, 2007

How to Avoid Getting Burned

We had everything we needed for a grand adventure. Or a disaster. I was six years old, Stephanie was seven, and Rudy was eight. We had a magnifying glass, a pile of dead leaves, and a sunny day.

“Let’s build a campfire!” I said.

Stephanie and Rudy looked at me skeptically.

“Oh, I know how to do it. It’ll be fun! My daddy’s a fireman, so I know all about stuff like this,” I boasted.

“Okay. If you’re sure,” they finally consented.

So, we scooted together our pile of leaves, and went searching for twigs, bark, tiny pieces of paper . . . anything that would contribute to our fire. Before long, we had a nice pile, hidden conveniently behind Rudy’s hedges, out of view of neighborhood adults.

Rudy was the first to hold the magnifying glass. After all, he was the oldest, and with age comes privilege. Before long, we saw smoke rising from our little pile. “It’s working!” we cheered.

“My turn,” said Stephanie. Older, yet inches shorter than I was. Smart as a whip, too. “I think if we hold it at this angle, it will . . . “

As she spoke, the smoke gave way to red, glowing embers.

“Look! It’s really working!” I cheered. But Stephanie and Rudy weren’t cheering. “It’s my turn!” I told Stephanie.

She handed me the magnifying glass, but her eyes showed concern. Doubt.

Rudy spoke up. “I don’t think this is such a good idea.”

“Oh, it’s fine. I know about fires, because my daddy is – “

“Does your daddy know you’re doing this?” Rudy stood his ground.

“He doesn’t care. He trusts me,” I lied angrily. “Besides, you’re doing it too.” Deep down, I knew Rudy was right. I was in over my head. But rather than admit it, I just kept going. I held up the magnifying glass, and suddenly, Poof! Up came the flames. We had a full-out fire on our hands.

Have you ever found yourself in a bad situation, and didn’t know how to get out of it? Perhaps you over committed yourself. Or perhaps you made a promise you couldn’t keep. All too often, when this happens, we avoid the issue. We lie. We find reasons to be angry at the people around us, blaming them for our situation. We do everything but the right thing. And before we know it, things are blazing out of control.

When we find ourselves in bad situations, we should just admit it! Rather than lying, or cheating, or acting irresponsibly, or getting angry, we should just seek out the people who can help us, and tell them the truth. A little humility goes a long way, and very often the person we are dealing with has found him/herself in a similar situation. Perhaps they’ll understand, and will try to help us. While we should always try to honor our commitments and be true to our word, we need to be honest with ourselves and others, and admit when we’re in over our heads. In so doing, we’ll keep ourselves, and others, from getting burned.

Rudy took off running toward my house. Stephanie and I stood speechlessly watching the fire grow larger and larger. Within moments, my daddy was there, stepping on the flames with his big boots, and soon all was safe. He sent Rudy and Stephanie home. As for me . . . well, let’s just say it didn’t take long for him to get to the bottom of things. And my bottom was sore for a long, long time.

Proverbs 6:2 - 3 “If you have been trapped by what you said . . . go and humble yourself.”